Turmeric is a spice derived from the ground roots of the Curcuma Longa plant. It has a distinct flavor, which becomes more potent as you cook, and is most noted for the yellow color it adds to the food it is cooked with. It is principally found in Asian cuisine, but makes a great addition to many modern dishes. If you find yourself out of turmeric while preparing a dish, the following spices may be substituted to add a similar golden coloring. Keep in mind that the flavors of each of these substitutions differ slightly, so choose which spice to use based on your preferences, and don't be afraid to experiment to find which substitutions you like best.
The array of prepared mustards available range from spicy, sweet or mild and indicate the vast uses for mustard in cooking. Turmeric is often added to the condiment to give it a distinct yellow color. There are many varieties of yellow mustard seeds and ground powders that may be substituted in place of turmeric. Each will have a distinct flavor and color so some experimentation may be necessary. Use 1 teaspoon of dry mustard in place of 1 teaspoon of turmeric.
Annatto is another spice frequently used to add both flavoring and coloring to foods, especially in Latin American and Caribbean fare. Annatto is the seed of the tropical Achiote tree and was originally ground for use as a pigment for paints and other products. As a substitute for turmeric in your cooking, bring 1/4 cup of water to a boil and steep 1 teaspoon of annatto seeds for 30 minutes. Substitute the resulting yellow liquid for turmeric.
Saffron is an ancient spice, alluded to in explorers' writings throughout history. It also provides a golden color when added to foods and has a similar taste to that of turmeric. Some say that saffron and turmeric can be used interchangeably in recipes calling for either spice, however, their flavors may be just as distinct to the seasoned pallet as the others in this list. Saffron is also a more expensive choice for a turmeric substitute as a greater quantity of the plant is used to produce the same amount of powdered spice.
Marigold offers a different, yet subtle, flavor as a turmeric substitute, as well as the golden hue. The flower is dried and ground into a yellow powder. Since the flavor is so mild, choose this substitute more for the color than the flavor. Use two to four times the amount of powdered marigold as a substitute for turmeric.
Remember that each spice offers a different flavor while providing similar golden coloring properties. They should be selected according to personal taste. Have fun experimenting with several to find out which substitute you like eating and cooking with the best.